It’s the first Friday of the month again and that means a trip to Wine and Chocolate at Hernando Cortez Schokoladen in Gertrudenstraße here in Cologne. Every month Marco painstakingly researches 3 wonderful wine and chocolate combinations, which pairs some amazing chocolate with some fantastic wines.
It’s the same procedure every month. As any British expat in Germany will hopefully know, this phrase is a very important in Germany culture. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then follow the link (here) and read more about the German phenomenon that is “Dinner for One”. With the Cologne Karneval season just a distant memory, it was nice to have an evening out that didn’t involve fancy dress.
A Truly International Evening – How Many Ways to Say Cheers
Living and working as an expat here in Germany is a great experience. We have a huge range of nationalities that come along. This means we have got to learn how to say cheers in lots of different languages. For us Brits we have cheers (for the English) and also a Slàinte for my lovely Scottish wife. Our Icelanders, Norwegians and Swedes have Skál, although we have to do it 3 times because they each have slightly different pronunciations. We then have Noroc for the Romanians and finally Priekā for the Latvians. It’s always exciting to get new nationalities joining us so we can learn another one. I’ve been preparing for that eventuality having recently come across the guide on drinking toasts from Laura and Nick’s blog called Savoured Sips. You can read about lots of other different ways to say cheers on the fab savoured sips blog.
For the March 2017 wine and chocolate evening, Marco had something really special for us. No white wine at all this month! We were straight into the red wine from the beginning and then as a surprise there was a Sherry to finish the evening in the 3rd combination. Read on and learn more about the great chocolate makers and vineyards that Marco featured this month.
1st Combination – Starting with a Red Wine #Unusual
To start the evening we had a really interesting combination. Normally Marco starts with a white wine and a lighter chocolate. This time he mixed things up a little by beginning with a 68% dark chocolate coupled with a cheeky Spanish red wine.
Chocolate 1 – Papua Kerafat by Original Beans
The first chocolate this month was from Original Beans who are one of my favourite chocolate makers. We tasted quite a lot of their chocolate in the past and I’ve written about them already back in November last year. You can read the full story behind Original Beans in that post here. I am a huge fan of their One Bar, One Tree program. This means that for every bar of chocolate they sell, Original Beans plants a new tree at the farm where the beans come from. Every Original Beans chocolate bar has a code on it. You enter this into their website and then you can see exactly where the new tree has been planted.
Papua Kerafat is a 68% dark chocolate. It uses beans from the rare Kerafat cocoa plant that grows in Indonesia. The beans grow in a very special location surrounded by colourful birds of paradise. Since 2014, the Original Beans Bean Team has worked closely with the WWF to support the growth of the cocao plants that helps to sustain the habitat of the birds. Despite a high cocoa content it still tasted quite light and fresh chocolate. The presence of pear and dried fruits was evident in its amazing flavour. There was also a subtle hint of macadamia nuts, peanuts and caramel. It was a great start to the evening.
Wine 1 – 2015 Tinto Joven – Bogegas Torremoron
To accompany the lovely dark chocolate we had a young and light red wine from Spain. The Tinto Joven comes from the Bodegas Torremoron winery, which was originally founded in 1957. It ran for many years as a cooperative involving different community partners. In 1990, the winery underwent a significant update, which introduced the latest technology into the wine making process.
Tinto Joven is made entirely from Tempranillo grapes. In the Ribera del Duero region of Northern Spain where the grapes are grown, they are also know as Tinto Fino grapes. The majority of the vineyard sits on the north edge of the River Duero and the vines range between 30 and 60 years old. The grapes are hand harvested to help preserve the true qualities of the grape. Once produced, the wine is bottled immediately without any ageing process. The final wine is a really gorgeous Cherry Red colour and the flavour lasted quite a while in the mouth. This helped it match perfectly with the chocolate Marco has chosen.
2nd Combination – Getting Deeper in Red Wine Flavours
For the second combination, Marco had chosen another really special pairing. For the chocolate, there wasn’t one but two different chocolates to taste. These were the complimentary milk and dark chocolate pralines made by the French Mazet family. This was paired with a stunning French red wine.
Chocolate 2 – Milk and Dark Chocolate Praslines – Mazet
The Mazet chocolate company was founded back in 1903 by Leon Mazet and his wife Jeanne Vieillard, who was the daughter of a famous chocolatier from Clermont-Ferrand. Having bought the classic Praline recipe from a store in the central French town of Montargis, the house of Mazet was born. Leon Mazet was an apprentice chocolatier in his Uncle’s business at the age of 15. He worked in some of the best chocolate companies in both France and England. Later he worked on cruise liners for Cunard.
Leon continued to run the Mazet family business until well into his 90s. In the 1960s, his son-in-law Guy Digeon and his daughter Jacqueline began to support Leon in running the business. Following a tragic fire at their factory in 1979, Guy and his son Benoit rebuilt a larger factory in the suburbs of Montargis. Today, the Mazet chocolate company is still very much a family business at the heart of their local community. You can read more about the Mazet company on their website here. They also have an online shop.
Both the mild and dark Pralines chocolate that Marco had chosen for this combination were perfect together and complemented the wine beautifully. At the heart of this amazing chocolate are the caramelised almonds that is the true French praline that was first developed back in 1636. This lovely flavour made the milk chocolate slightly sweeter, while it really lightened the dark chocolate.
Wine 2 – 2014 Cru Bourgeois – Chateau du Retout
The wine to go with the Mazet chocolate was a lovely, fruity red wine from France. This Cru Bourgeois comes from the Chateau du Retout winery, which was developed from an abandoned vineyard by the Kopp family in the 1950s. Cru Bourgeois is a quality classification term for red wines produced in the Médoc region of France, which is on the left bank of Bordeaux.
The vineyard is still run by the Kopp family today, with family values at the heart their philosophy. They are passionate about making wine simple and accessible rather than something pretentious that is tasted by snobs rather than enjoyed for fun and enjoyment. I very much subscribe to this philosophy. I don’t even try to understand all the fancy wine tasting terminology, our wine tasting evenings are just an excuse to meet up with our friends and have good catch up. It’s also an excuse to eat copious amounts of peanut Tofu, both more of that later. You can read more about the Kopp family’s 5 senses theory on their website here.
Cru Bourgeois is made from a mixture of a number of different grape varieties. This includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and classic Merlot grapes. The term Cru Bourgeois dates back to the Middle Ages, when the citizens (bourgeois), who were the residents of the “burgh” (bourg) of Bordeaux, acquired the region’s best lands and were subsequently granted this designation. In 1932, the Cru Bourgeois were grouped in a list established by the Bordeaux wine merchants. This wine from Chateau du Retout is formally classed as a Haut-Médoc wine. It has a beautiful deep red colour and a wonderfully fruity flavour.
3rd and Final Combination – Finishing Off With Port
As I said at the start, Marco had a real treat for us in the final combination. I am not sure exactly why we all get excited when Marco gives us a Sherry or a Port as part of one of the tasting combinations. However, I have a feeling that it might have something to do with the fact that he still gives us a wine glass sized portion despite it having significantly more alcohol content. Yes, that’s how classy we are!
Chocolate 3 – Dulcey White Chocolate – Valrhona
The final chocolate tasted really special. It was a Dulcey White Chocolate from the French chocolate company Valrhona. The company was founded in 1922 by a French pastry chef, Albéric Guironnet, who came from the Rhône valley. They still make their world-renowned chocolate in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage, which lies on the left bank of the Rhône in south-western France.
At the heart of the company’s chocolate is their Live Long programme. This is a cocoa strategy based on the four pillars of quality, innovation, sustainability and ethics. They work closely to support the local communities where their cocoa is sourced.
The chocolate itself was a revelation for anyone like me who was brought up in the 70s and 80s. It harks back to childhood memories of Caramac bars. It’s quite an improvement on the bars I remember as a child but it was great to taste something so evocative from Christmas’ of the past when I used to get a Caramac in my selection box.
Wine 3 – Pedro Ximenez Sherry – Emilio Hidalgo
The sherry that Marco had chosen to go with our Caramac bar was a sweet Sherry from the Jerez area of Spain. It was made with Pedro Ximenez grapes, which is a white wine grape that is mainly used in Sherry because its low acidity makes it unsuitable for making wine. Interestingly Pedro Ximenez grapes are mainly grown in another part of Spain and the local Sherry laws allow the grapes to be imported to Jerez, where the Sherry production then takes place.
The Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo winery was originally founded in 1874 and has developed an international reputation for producing elegant, refined Sherries. Today, the fifth generation of the Hidalgo family run the winery, carrying on the family’s rich Sherry-making heritage at the heart of their local community. This new generation maintains the traditions that have been carefully preserved and enriched for more than 130 years. The Sherry itself had a wonderfully sweet flavour with the taste of prunes coming through very strongly. This matched the chocolate perfectly and was a great finish to a lovely evening of wine tasting.
End Of the Evening – Peanut Tofu Perfection
The wine and chocolate tasting itself lasted over 2 hours, we arrived at 7 pm and left around 9.15 pm. Depending on the exact wines and chocolates each week it normally costs between 15 and 20 Euros per person. The atmosphere at Heranado Cortez is perfect and it’s a great place to catch up with friends.
After Wine and Chocolate, we always head across town to our favourite Balinese Restaurant for Peanut Tofu. It might not sound exciting but it really is amazing and gives a perfect end to the evening. If you need further convincing, check out my previous post about Warung and his amazing restaurant here.
So that ends another update about our fantastic Wine and Chocolate evening. Hopefully it inspires you to think outside the box a little when you go shopping. The world is full of independent companies and producers who are at the heart of their local communities, the more you can support them the better.